Botswana is one of the primary photo destinations in Africa. There is little surface water in the desert areas which cover much of the country, but in the north the massive wetland of the Okavango Delta and the associated waterways of Chobe, Kwando and Linyanti rivers are lush and full of life.
The Okavango Delta
Situated in the north of the country at around 15 000 square kilometres in size this is the world’s largest inland delta — and arguably one of the best game viewing areas in the world. Most of the water comes from rivers originating in the Angolan highlands. It is so delicately tilted that from the panhandle in the northwest to Maun — a distance of several hundred kilometres the variation in altitude is only about 50 metres. The flood water pushes through the channels and dense reeds at a rate of about one metre a day taking four months to arrive at the lower reaches. By the time the first water licks the fringes of the desert the rains are long forgotten, but the flood is eagerly awaited. As a result of this the prime season for game viewing here is in the dry season as the waters arrive. Buffalo, elephant, wildebeest, zebra and impala are drawn to the inflowing water and they, in turn, provide food for lion, leopard, hyena and wild dog. As the waterways fill, they looping channels wind through papyrus and islands of palms, figs, jackalberries and timeless baobabs. Purple day lilies and cream coloured night lillies bob above the crystal clear waters. The reeds are alive with dragonflies and painted reedfrogs. Fish eagles, Pel’s fishing owls, herons, kingfishers and endangered wattled crane are among the birds found in abundance.
Moremi Game Reserve
The central and eastern Okavango is made up of the Moremi Game Reserve which was set aside in 1962 by the Tswana people. The reserve originally comprised mopane forest but has been expanded to incorporate a strip of wetlands nd papyrus in the west as well as Chief’s Island, which is the largest in the Delta. Sixty kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide it is on the edge of permanent water and offers some of the best game viewing in the region.
Chobe National Park
In the north along the meandering Chobe River has one of the biggest concentrations of game in Africa. This is elephant country with vast herds migrating through Chobe and the adjacent Savuti and Linyanti marshes. During the dry season the the elephants are so numerous and thirsty that they provide an awesome spectacle for tourists but there is deep concern bout the damange that they are doing to the surrounding vegetation.
Much of the land stretching up the panhandle down to Maun including Kwando, Linyanti, Savuti and Selinda areas of Chobe is unspoilt by tourism.
In addition, Botswana has opted for low-impact tourism limiting the number of admission permits and and charging high prices. Private game reserves are afforded freedoms not permitted in government areas including walking trails, off road drives and night drives.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve covers 52 800 square kilometres making it one of the largest parks in the world. Parts of the park are off limits to tourists but various areas are open. These include Deception Valley which has large herds of springbok as well as lion. The areas is at its best during the green season when there is a large migration of game to the pans and the flowers are abundant. Despite the high temperature a surprising number of animals survive here. Apex predators include lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena. Small mammals include black-backed jackals, surricates, hares and pangolins. Gemsbok, eland and springbok are among the antelope species. The Kalahari also has a large resident population of ostrich, Kori bustard, sandgrouse, larks and pipits.
Living Landscapes of Southern Africa by David Rogers (Struik Publishers, 2006)